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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Monday, January 24, 2005

If you can't beat them with bullets, mash them with media

posted by Jazz at 1/24/2005 09:51:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

"If you don't know what to do, call the media and at least give the appearance of doing something."
- David Peterson

Here's a touching story. I know you'll be shocked. (Hat tip to Media Matters for America.)

From Editor and Publisher:

"Media Training Now Required for Iraq-Bound Soldiers"
"Talking point" cards for military personnel, meanwhile, are being updated regularly as the war progresses -- often as much as once a week -- to keep up with the conflict's changing issues and the proximity of embedded reporters. Among the current talking points: "We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all." Soldiers preparing for deployment in hostile or critical areas have received some kind of media training in handling press inquiries since as far back as the first Persian Gulf War, according to several military press officers. Such training has also included pocket cards with suggested talking points for the combatants, which advise them how best to promote the military operation and avoid awkward or confrontational interviews.

The media training consists of one or two hours of briefings by public-affairs specialists from the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. In the past, such training was provided only to those Army units who requested it, according to Sgt. Don Dees, an Army spokesman based at the Baghdad press center. But, since October, it has become a mandatory requirement for all deploying Army troops.
Isn't that sweet? As if we don't have a hard enough time getting any real news out of Iraq, given that the "embedded reporters" are usually so afraid of getting the boot from the military. Add to that the fact that so much of the country is unsafe for travel by journalists, and you've got a virtual black hole of coverage. Now, the few opportunities that might arise for reporters to ask actual questions of the troops are going to be filtered by people with the power to throw said troops in the hoosegow for no reason at all.

It seems that not everyone is thrilled with this progressive government communications program:
But not everyone is supportive of the military's media preparation. Sig Christenson, president of Military Reporters and Editors, said most of the advice is good common sense, but he said some of the talking points could lead soldiers to misrepresent the situation or even lie. Christenson, a military-affairs writer at the San Antonio Express-News, cited the talking point about the military units being "trained, resourced, and ready." "What if it is untrue?" he asked, pointing to the recent questioning of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by a soldier about a lack of armored protection for vehicles. "If that isn't the truth, they should make it clear that the soldiers and Marines should say so." He also objected to having soldiers always provide a positive outlook. "If they are being told to find a way to talk about the positive, they are not talking about facts," Christenson said. He also called the suggestion to avoid acronyms or profanity "public-relations silliness."
Some of the war bloggers continually kvetch about how "only the bad news" is reported from Iraq. Frankly, in light of this report, I'm shocked we hear anything at all.